Nordhouse Dunes Research Natural Area

[photo:] Nordhouse Dunes RNA. Photo by Lucy Tyrrell, USDA Forest Service.

This RNA is part of the largest expanse of wind-blown dunes and interdunal wetlands adjacent to fresh water in the world. Open and active dunes, wooded and stabilized dunes, interdunal wetlands, and bogs are present on the site. One of the world's two largest populations of the Great Lakes' endemic dune thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) is present within this RNA. One federally-listed Threatened plant species, dune thistle (Cirsium pitcheri), two state-listed Threatened species, fascicled broom-rape (Orobanche fasciculata) and red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus), and two state-listed Special Concern species, ram’s head lady-slipper (Cypripedium arietinum) and Cerulean warbler (Dendroica cerulea) are known to be present within the RNA.

Ecological Information

Physical and Climatic Conditions

Nearest weather station, with distance and direction from RNA:
Weather observations, dating from 1898, are available from the Michigan Department of Agriculture at Ludington, Michigan. The weather station is located 4 miles (6 km) southeast of Ludington, and 12 miles (19 km) southeast of the RNA. Weather observations are also available from Manistee, Michigan, 10 miles (16 km) northeast of the RNA.
Annual precipitation (type, seasonal distribution) :
The mean annual precipitation is 29.93 inches (76 cm), with 55% of this falling between May and October. Snow fall averages 65.6 inches (166 cm) per year.
Maximum and minimum temperatures:
The mean annual temperature is 45.9 ºF, with a mean January temperature of 23.9 ºF.
The elevation ranges from 580 to 740 feet (177-226 m).
Geology and Soils:
Four main dune types are present: parabolic dunes, linear dune ridges, complex dune fields, and interdunal lowlands. The site is composed of various layers of limestone, shales, and sandstones. The area exhibits an excellent potential for oil-gas reserves. Dune sand, a well-drained soil, occupies most of the area. Black oak and red maple are growing on Bridgeman sand. The conifer bog is comprised of Greenwood peat and Rifle peat.
Aquatic Features:
There is no permanent open water within the RNA, other than that which lies in interdunal wetlands and the spruce bog in Section 34.

Ecological Classification & Inventory

Northern Great Lakes (212H)
Manistee Outwash and Lake Sands (212Hw)
Landtype Association:
Active and Stable Sand Dunes (LTA 8)
SAF Cover Types (list acres): Kuchler Types (list acres):
1 Jack Pine (80) 86 Great Lakes Pine Forest (783)
12-E Black spruce-Speckled alder (12) 94 Conifer bog (12)
108 Red maple (120)  
110 Black oak (127)  
Common Shrub Species:
Blueleaf willow (Salix myricoides), bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), common juniper (Juniperus communis).
Common Herbaceous Species:
Beach grass (Ammophiala breviligulata), sand reed (Calamovilfa longifolia), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), wormwood (Artemesia sp.), rock-cress (Arabis lyrata), hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens), evening primrose (Oenothera biennis).

Related Reports and Publications

1987. Establishment Record of the Nordhouse Dunes Research Natural Area within the Huron-Manistee National Forest. Unpublished report on file at the Northern Research Station, Rhinelander, 38 pages.

O’Connell, P., Allen, B., Barto, B., and R. Venegos. 1995. Manistee National Forest Breeding Bird Survey: Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area and Lake Michigan Recreation Area. Unpublished Report.

Last Modified: August 19, 2021